When it comes to your family’s oral health, the healthy behaviors you model for your children have an effect now and as they mature. According to a 10-year study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released in 2013, parents worked to get healthy in tandem with a group of children, 40 percent of whom had sustained their weight loss a decade later. In the same way, you can model great oral care for your own kids. Get started today by modeling these 5 healthy habits in your household to create the best foundation for your child’s long-term oral health.
Why Modeling Healthy Habits Matters
Kids learn by example, and parents are the first and primary example kids have when it comes to creating healthy habits on their own. Research by Duke University suggests “limiting access to junk foods at home and [incorporating] parental policies supporting family meals increased the amount of healthy foods kids ate.” The fact is that candy, soda, “fermentable carbohydrates,” and cooked starches like chips and pretzels can create acid that lingers longer in your kid’s mouth, increasing the rate and risk of tooth decay, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). So modeling healthy habits when it comes to diet and oral care makes a real difference.
1. Take Family Time Outdoors
Although family movie night is a fun and enjoyable way to spend time together, getting in the habit of taking family time outdoors decreases the risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke, per the federal Let’s Move! initiative. Adults actually need 30 minutes of exercise a day, whereas kids should receive 60 minutes of time to stay active. You can model exercise and physical activity for your kids by finding a fun activity everyone can enjoy. Whether it’s a family hike or a backyard game of baseball, you’ll be modeling a healthy lifestyle that has a lasting effect on their oral health.
2. Keep a Stash of Healthy Snacks for Long Days of Driving
Most parents know to bring extra snacks for their kids on days when they’re out for longer periods. But instead of choosing a candy bar for yourself, pack a personal snack that’s as healthy as your kids’ lunches. It’s important for your kids to see you reach for something healthy during the afternoon slump time or on a long day of errands and driving. Keep a stash of nuts and fruit with you in your car or on the go; natural sugars and protein will also sustain you over a longer period so you can stay focused when your youngest gives you a hard time.
3. Make the Switch From Coffee to Green Tea
It might be hard to get in the habit of drinking green tea over coffee, but the benefits are great. Starting your day with caffeine can set you up for a caffeine crash, and you’re more likely to turn to sugar for that much-needed boost when it hits – increasing your risk of tooth decay. Choosing green tea instead can give you just enough caffeine without staining your teeth like coffee, one of the top tooth-staining offenders. Green tea can also decrease the risk of dental decay offering you improved dental health benefits, according to Care2. Modeling this habit for your kids shows that you care about your smile just as much as your dentist does.
4. Maintain Great Oral Care on Vacation
It’s OK to enjoy a more relaxed schedule on vacation, but that doesn’t mean your oral care should take a back seat. Vacation time with your kids is an opportunity to demonstrate a continued routine of healthy habits, like daily flossing the correct way and brushing at least twice a day for two minutes and rinsing after a big dinner. Paying attention to your oral care on vacation teaches your kids that some routines can be maintained without giving up a good time.
5. Keep Regular Dental Visits
One of the most enduring habits you can model for your kids is to maintain great oral care with regular visits to your dentist. If you can, line your appointment up with those of your children. Making your dental care a priority shows them that your own oral care is important and a priority.
Making and keeping habits takes time, and that time can vary for each person. Committing to these 5 healthy habits and calling attention to them when you’re with your kids will help light the way to great oral care into adulthood.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.
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